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City and residents have differing views on Foothill Blvd changes

Spring forward was characteristic of more than just this week’s time change. The city got off to a roaring start on preliminary recommendations for its Foothill Boulevard master plan on Monday with more than 50 people crowding into the city’s Citrus Room to provide input on proposed changes to Claremont’s historic highway.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) issued the city of Claremont $5.7 million in June 2012 for the relinquishment of the city of Claremont’s portion of Foothill Boulevard. In order to effectively spend that money, the Claremont City Council approved $320,000 for a master plan to help consolidate existing plans for the street and create a community vision for the future of Foothill.

While that vision is still far from fruition, city officials have identified a series of desired fixes—a new traffic light, sidewalk, bike lane and landscaping among them. While not all were sure about a number of the proposals discussed at the meeting, an overwhelming amount were in agreement on one thing: If it doesn’t need fixing, leave it be.

“The one aspect of Foothill Boulevard that I like versus other communities is that you have a different look to the street as you pass through the city. The volunteer trees, its all a part of that spontaneity,” said Claremont resident Douglas Lyon. “The plans we have here are just sort of cookie cutter or over-regimented and it doesn’t give you a sense of belonging to the place anymore. I don’t want to lose that sense.”

Residents were especially miffed by the proposed addition of a traffic light at Berkeley to combat the heavy traffic flow from the bustling Old School House Complex. Navigating the overflowing shopping center has become an issue of concern over the years with only two driveways off Foothill Boulevard and no allowed left turn. Shoppers desiring to go left on Foothill must head to the exit on the eastern side of the marketplace or head to the back of the center onto Colby Circle and out to Indian Hill Boulevard.

The city first considered a traffic light at Berkeley in 2006 as part of the review for the Old School House development. While the light was not added, two commissions as well as the city council approved the existing turn restrictions. This was based on the traffic study’s determination that the intersection would not operate “at an acceptable level of service,” according to City Engineer Loretta Mustafa.

Concerns continue to persist, however, as the center becomes increasingly busy and no safe pathway across the street at Berkeley exists. 

“At this point we are moving forward and plans for the signal are being integrated into this Foothill master plan,” Ms. Mustafa said, noting a tentative installation date of mid-2015.

Turn restrictions and any added inconvenience in and out of the center aside, a majority of those present at the meeting were not in favor of opening Berkeley Avenue up to further traffic problems. Those living on or near the street say the street is already used heavily by emergency responders commuting to elsewhere in the city or those traveling to Our Lady of The Assumption parish and school.

“In the morning, when I try to cross Berkeley, it’s like a river of SUVs and that’s now before you start having a light that increases the traffic,” said Peter Ambrose.

In addition to the traffic light, residents added their input on the proposed expansion of the sidewalk and street trees on the north side of Foothill, between Colby Circle and Mountain Avenue, and added sidewalk, six-to-eight foot retaining wall and landscaping along the south side between Berkeley and Mountain. This drew concern from those homeowners with backyards that back up onto the main boulevard, who mentioned the existing trees and bushes have helped to mitigate noise and debris issues. Removing the existing foliage with less mature trees and brush would be detrimental, they asserted.

Several residents were upset further because of the perception that plans were already moving forward for the addition of the traffic light without much public comment. Ms. Mustafa assured residents the light is far from decided upon.

“The point of this meeting is to find out what your feedback is. Nothing is set in stone,” she said. “This is just the start of the conversation. We are hearing and noting the concerns and I’m open to your suggestions.”

Another meeting soliciting public feedback on aspects of the Foothill Boulevard master plan will take place on Monday, April 7. The Traffic and Transportation will be discussing the traffic signal on Thursday, April 24.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

 

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